The Daily Parker

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Forget the president. Focus on the Senate

Josh Marshall says we should hold Republican senators accountable for their handling of President Trump's impeachment trial—especially vulnerable ones up for re-election this year:

We know what Trump did. What remains to be seen is whether Senate Republicans will back his behavior. Monday evening we got a big part of the answer.

When we say that it’s Senate Republicans who are on trial, that’s not just rhetoric or wordplay. It’s the reality and understanding it is a guide to political action.

I’ve already seen a number of statements from Senate Democrats “hoping” that “Republican moderates” will force McConnell to backtrack. This is all wrong, not least because it prospectively credits the good faith of these supposed “moderates” who are in fact operating as McConnell’s foot soldiers in shutting the trial down. In other words, this is vouching for the good faith and good intentions of senators who deserve to be driven from office in November. Start making the case against them right now. If any of them think they are unfairly accused the solution is ready at hand.

Only 227 days until the election.

Johnson, Clinton, Trump

Yesterday, the House of Representatives impeached the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress:

After 11 hours of fierce argument on the House floor between Democrats and Republicans over Trump’s conduct with Ukraine, lawmakers voted almost entirely along party lines to impeach him. Trump becomes the third president in U.S. history to face trial in the Senate — a proceeding that will determine whether he is removed from office less than one year before he stands for reelection.

The Democratic-controlled House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — related to the president’s attempts to withhold military aid to Ukraine and pressure its government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic opponent.

The House voted 230 to 197 to approve the article charging abuse of power, with the gavel falling about 8:30 p.m. On the obstruction of Congress vote, which followed soon after, the tally was 229 to 198.

All Republicans voted against both articles. Among Democrats, two voted no on the first article and three on the second, with one — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) — voting “present” both times.

George Conway says the president's malignant narcissism made impeachment inevitable:

It was inevitable because of Trump himself, his very character, whose essential nature many who now support him have long understood.

In essence, Trump thinks everything should be about him, for him, for his benefit and glorification—and he can’t comprehend, and doesn’t care about, anything that isn’t. The American diplomat David Holmes testified that Ambassador Gordon Sondland explained to him that “the president only cares about ‘big stuff’”—clarifying, according to Holmes, that this meant “big stuff that benefits the president.”

And that’s why Trump can’t comply with his duties to the nation, and why he now stands as the third president ever to have been impeached. His own stated view of his constitutional authority can only be described as narcissistic: “I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president.” But as the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment report rightly explains, “Impeachment is aimed at Presidents who believe they are above the law, and who believe their own interests transcend those of the country and Constitution.” Or, as then-Representative Mike Pence put it in 2008: “This business of high crimes and misdemeanors goes to the question of whether the person serving as President of the United States put their own interests, their personal interests, ahead of public service.” It was inevitable that, given his boundlessly self-centered bent, this president would do precisely that.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has put the Articles of Impeachment in a drawer, ostensibly to get cooperation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on trial procedures, but also, as Josh Marshall points out, to keep the initiative and keep the focus on Republican intransigence.

And so, as we go into the last two weeks of the decade, things keep getting more interesting. To that end, I'll have a bit about this morning's Queen's Speech once I've read it.

I'll take an antacid with my lunch now

With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.

More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."

As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:

Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.

One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.

Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.

Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.

In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."

The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:

The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.

Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.

Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.

Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)

And in other news:

Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.

Surprised he didn't write it in crayon

The President of the United States threw another tantrum today, this time in the form of a six-page letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). It isn't exactly the Gettysburg Address:

President Trump on Tuesday denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade” being waged against him by Democrats, calling the effort to remove him an unconstitutional abuse of power and an “attempted coup” that would come back to haunt them at the ballot box next year.

“I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election,” Mr. Trump wrote in a rambling, six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent on the eve of House votes to impeach him on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. “They will not soon forgive your perversion of justice and abuse of power.”

Mr. Trump wrote that he knew his letter would not change the outcome of Wednesday’s votes, expected to occur almost entirely on party lines, to impeach him. But he said the missive was “for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.”

He's right; history will judge how he handled his presidency. I doubt it will judge him the way his narcissistic little mind believes it will.

If you have nothing better to do this afternoon, you can read the letter here. Lincoln may have cringed, but Andrew Johnson would approve.

Update: Of course Aaron Blake annotated the thing.

Barr unfit to serve as AG, says Eric Holder

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder slams his successor for "actions that are so plainly ideological, so nakedly partisan and so deeply inappropriate for America’s chief law enforcement official" that he felt compelled to speak out:

In Barr’s view, sharing executive power with anyone “beyond the control of the president” (emphasis mine), presumably including a semi-independent Cabinet member, “contravenes the Framers’ clear intent to vest that power in a single person.” This is a stunning declaration not merely of ideology but of loyalty: to the president and his interests. It is also revealing of Barr’s own intent: to serve not at a careful remove from politics, as his office demands, but as an instrument of politics — under the direct “control” of President Trump.

Virtually since the moment he took office...Barr’s words and actions have been fundamentally inconsistent with his duty to the Constitution. Which is why I now fear that his conduct — running political interference for an increasingly lawless president — will wreak lasting damage.

The American people deserve an attorney general who serves their interests, leads the Justice Department with integrity and can be entrusted to pursue the facts and the law, even — and especially — when they are politically inconvenient and inconsistent with the personal interests of the president who appointed him. William Barr has proved he is incapable of serving as such an attorney general. He is unfit to lead the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, across town from the Justice Department, the Republican Party, from Congress to the White House, apparently have decided that no defense is their best offense against the articles of impeachment against President Trump. This may have something to do with Trump admitting to all the impeachable conduct the House accuses him of...

In other news...

Let me first acknowledge that the biggest news story today today came from the House Judiciary Committee, which has drawn up two articles of impeachment against President Trump. This comes after committee chair Jerry Nadler nearly lost control of yesterday's meeting.

As Josh Marshall points out, no one expects the Senate to remove the president from office. So the Democratic Party's job is just to demonstrate how much malfeasance and illegality the Republican Party will tolerate from their guy.

If only that were the only story today.

And tonight, I get to preside over a condo-board meeting that will be at least as fun as yesterday's Judiciary Committee meeting.

Alexandra Petri nails it, again

I had the misfortune of hearing the entirety of Rep. Doug Collins' (R-GA) opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee this morning, and I almost ran off the road because I was rolling my eyes too much.

Fortunately, Alexandra Petri neatly summed up the Republican positions he advanced:

You bet I would love to support impeachment! Nothing would delight me more — if it were just bipartisan, which unfortunately it’s not, because I have vowed to oppose it at all costs. This is sure an unfortunate coincidence. I keep asking: Why isn’t there bipartisan support for this? I could support it, if only I were not against it — which I am, vehemently, and will hear no reason to change my mind. A most ingenious paradox!

We must consider the facts. Alas, the facts are in dispute, coincidentally again by me. So, there we are. Who can say what’s true? I understand you to be saying that a certain set of things are demonstrably true, but to that I say, “What if they weren’t? Also, think about President Andrew Johnson.”

It is your fault that this impeachment process is not bipartisan, and you ought to feel bad. If I had not vowed that this process was illegitimate and I would oppose it, I would consider it legitimate, and support it. It is your fault that I won’t, for starting this process, instead of waiting for me to start it.

Which I would have! If the president were a Democrat.

As long as the Republican members of Congress do not care at all how President Trump executes his office, all the Democrats can do is point out how bad it is. And also their hypocrisy. Remember, when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton for lying about an affair, they made all the arguments that Democrats are now making for far worse conduct.

Feeling insecure? Blame these guys

The Post reported today that a simple review of phone logs shows how the president and his stooges left themselves open to Russian espionage by using insecure cell phones:

The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents — a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.

The connection to the Ukraine campaign is also troubling because of how Moscow could exploit knowledge that Trump was secretly engaged in efforts to extract political favors from the government in Kyiv.

Trump and Giuliani have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,” said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now

“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text” of what was said, Sipher said. “I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”

Ordinarily I'd chalk this up to stupidity. But GOP strategist Rick Wilson sees something far darker:

The traitors deliberately ignore the reporting, counsel, and warnings of the intelligence community when it comes to Russia’s attacks and Vladimir Putin’s vast, continuing intelligence and propaganda warfare against the United States.

The traitors — be they United States senators like John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham or columnists from the Federalist, Breitbart, and a slurry of other formally conservative media outlets — repeat the Kremlin-approved propaganda messages and tropes of that warfare, word for word.

It’s not simply treason by making common cause with a murderous autocrat in Russia, or merrily wrecking the alliances around the world that kept America relatively secure for seven decades.

Their betrayal is also to our system of government, which as imperfect — and often downright fucked up — as it is, has been remarkably capable of surviving.

And if you can’t spot the treason yet, you will soon enough. That’s the thing about spies, traitors, and those who betray their country — they rarely stay hidden forever.

We need to get this administration out of office in 2021, and help the American people understand the danger their sympathizers represent. If only we still taught civics in schools.

Someone call lunch

Today in Chicago we have seen more sun than in the past several weeks, and yet here I toil in my cube. But a lot is going on outside it:

And we now return to our regular JSON debugging session, already in progress.

In the news today

As the House Judiciary Committee goes through the unfortunately necessary step of having expert witnesses state the obvious, other things caught my attention over the course of the morning:

Finally, two CTA employees were fired after one of them discovered an exploitable security hole in bus-tracking software, and the other tested it. The one who discovered it has sued under a Federal whistle-blower statute. Firing someone for discovering a potentially-catastrophic software design error is really dumb, people.